HUNTINGDON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Tori Wilt holds many titles. She’s a mom, wife, teacher, and Alexandria borough council member. On top of these, she’s also a fighter and breast cancer survivor.
Tori was diagnosed in 2013 as HER2+, ERPR-.
“I remember I felt a lump on my right breast, and I thought nothing of it,” Tori said. “It wasn’t until I got an email a few weeks later about breast cancer being on the rise in younger women that I thought… well maybe I ought to get this thing checked out.”
When the results came back, a normal day at work would turn into a nightmare. Tori had stage II cancer.
“They say your life flashes before your eyes, and my son was instant. What is he going to do without me? And at the time, I was 34 and a single mom.”
Tori Wilt and her son
On top of the diagnosis, doctors also told Tori they noticed calcifications in her left breast, and that they’d need to keep a close eye on them.
The last thing Tori wanted was to live in fear, so she decided to have a double mastectomy.
“I said let’s just take them off and let’s move on. I didn’t want to have to worry and wonder what is this lump, and is it going to spread.”
While confident in her decision, Tori’s reality was moving faster than she could even grasp it.
To reassure her, a doctor promised that they’d put her back together with breast reconstruction.
“I will never forget those words, ‘we’re going to put you back together.’ Looking back now at 43 years old, why in the world would you tell a woman we’re going to put you back together, as if there was something flawed with me?”
Though at the time, Tori says the doctor’s words brought her comfort.
“I thought ‘OK, I’m going to be OK,'” Tori said.
Tori would first get expanders in, which are filled with saline and stretch the skin to make a pocket for the implants.
Shortly after the procedure, Tori began to notice welts on her chest.
“But I didn’t think anything of it,” admitted Tori.
Once getting the implants, Tori began to notice even more symptoms that were only worsening.
“Started gaining weight, I had migraines that were maybe 3 to 5 times a week. I had brain fog. I had severe panic attacks. My joint pain, I would get up in the morning and my back was just so sore. There was a dullness in my skin like a grey.”
Naturally, Tori took to the internet hoping to find answers. There, she’d find a group of women whose implants were making them sick.
“I called my surgeon, who put them in, he said these women are nuts, they don’t know what they’re talking about, you’re fine,” Tori said.
Tori believed her surgeon and eliminated the correlation, but that didn’t stop her quest for answers. She’d end up turning to close to a dozen doctors, though none of them attributed her symptoms to the implants.
“They said, ‘oh, the welts are just adult acne and that we can give you antidepressants for the panic attacks.'”
Finally, she’d come across a Facebook post of a now dear friend, who is also a breast cancer survivor. She too experienced symptoms after getting implants, but detailed how once she got them removed, her illnesses disappeared.
Tori admits she was skeptical of the post at first, but instead of trying to sell her on the notion, the friend simply shared her own story and the facts, and let Tori make of it what she wanted.
Over the course of 7 years, Tori would have 11 surgeries and two more sets of implants put in.
Finally, in 2020, she decided she’d had enough.
“It was a hard choice…. it really was. You have this vision of how you’re going to look and then you have these health complications, after kicking cancer’s butt, you’re still dealing with stuff,” Tori said.
Despite the initial uncertainty, Tori says the decision to have her implants removed would end up being one of the best ones she could have ever made.
“Right away, I felt better. Right away like the next day. I’m out running now, and I’ve lost 60 pounds, and the brain fog is gone. I mean, it’s like you literally took a veil off of my face, and wow, I can see again.”
To provide others with that same clarity, Tori has now made it her mission to advocate for implant safety. She’s even taken the issue to the state senate.
As a result of sharing her story with Senator Judy Ward, Ward sponsored Bill 762.
It requires doctors to give patients a detailed list of the potential risks, before consenting to breast implants.
“It’s about informed consent. We have a right to know what we’re putting in our body. And what it can do to our body. And then let us make the decision for ourselves.”
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Now 9 years in remission, Tori says she’s proud to be a breast cancer survivor.
“I’m OK with how everything played out. And I think I’m OK with it because I learned from it. I often say it was the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s made me a better woman, mom, wife… I have this heart to help other women going through it. I don’t want to ever go through it again, but I don’t regret it.”
As for her advice to others who may be going through what she did, Tori said to simply put one step in front of the other.
“Take a deep breath, and know that you’re going to make the best decision about your own health. What’s right for me, might not be right for someone else, but that’s the beauty of informed consent.”